By: Dani Kagan, Co-Founder of Mave & Chez
When I was a kid, my parents used to call me Emelda Marcos. Not because I resembled her in any way, but I shared her love of all things SHOES.
Whenever I would go to the mall, I would race to the shoe store… any shoe store… whatever was closest. I’d try on everything from 4 inch heels to the latest sneakers. I didn’t care much for designer names, I just loved how shoes made me feel. They gave me confidence. I walked taller (figuratively and most times literally) and when I wore shoes I adored, I had this pep in my step.
As a teenager, I started loving all things heels: pumps, booties, chunky heels, strappy sandals, stilettos, you name it. At a staggering 5”9 at the age of 13 I didn’t care if I towered over everyone – I just loved my heels.
Shoes just fit.Shoes just fit.
Let’s back up a bit. I grew up as a very active kid. I started dancing competitively at the age of 8 and didn’t stop until the end of high school. Many don’t realize how intense competitive dance is. I would be in the studio for some weeks up to 20 hours. That’s kind of crazy looking back on that now as an adult. But I loved it. It kept me focused, creative, and taught me about discipline, time management, and how to condition my body. ￼
Dance, specifically ballet, was pretty grueling on my back, hips, knees and feet. I suffered from a few injuries, like breaking my toe (where my Russian ballet teacher insisted on me using an old Russian cocktail of putting my own urine on my toe to heal it… and I did it… and it healed… more on this another time), and later a knee injury that I still deal with to this day. But boy did I learn so much about posture, body alignment, how to strengthen certain micro muscles, and so much more. I feel very grateful for having dance in my life and as one of the biggest parts of my childhood. I met such wonderful people through dance. It opened up my world. Even though it broke me (mentally and physically) at so many points throughout my childhood and teenage years, it gave me so much confidence.
BUT, my body started taking a toll in my early 20’s when I stopped dancing and I started working a desk job. I landed this wicked job as an event coordinator with an event production company that did some of the biggest events in Toronto.
I had gone from dancing 15+ hours a week competitively, to 10 hours a week professionally (for the Toronto Raptors where we’d be dancing in heels for hours) to sitting on my butt from 9 – 5 and working events until 2 AM.
Not to mention, I’d wear heels at the events I was working at for as long as 10 hours. My back, hips, knees, and feet were in trouble.￼
I quickly realized that I needed to take better care of myself with this new job and new chapter in my life. I got into yoga, I started seeing an amazing osteopath, and got more into weight training.
While all of these things definitely helped – the years of competitive dance, the shift to a desk job, and working long hours on my feet as an event planner, made my body incredibly stiff.
When the pandemic hit, I did an audit of my shoe closet. Oh so many heels that will not get worn anytime soon, I told myself. I donated at least 10 pairs (my husband wished it was more) and then whipped out all my slippers. I knew they would be coming in handy now that we were going to be home for a while (at the time, we thought it would be a few months… ha).
My slippers were all pretty gross. It was time for an upgrade.
I bought one pair – very cute, but incredibly uncomfortable.
I bought a second pair – quite comfortable but no way to wash them and after a few wears they got stinky.
I bought a third pair of slippers – very comfortable but not very stylish and made me feel kind of frumpy working from home.
I bought another pair, and another pair, AND ANOTHER PAIR. Nothing satisfied my needs. So I started walking around the house in socks (I can hear my podiatrist screaming noooo!!!).
Now I don’t know how everyone else felt being stuck at home for so long, but it was pretty awful for me. I love working in an environment with people around me. Walking to my office or a coffee shop and jam packing my day with meetings, yoga, and social events. Working from home was a major shift – for all of us – and I really felt it take a toll on my body since I opted to wear socks or go barefoot since I couldn’t find supportive yet cozy slippers.￼
Then, I got pregnant. I needed to figure out my footwear issue fast.￼
I finally figured out the one person I hadn’t approached to help me with my aching body, and soon to be pregnant body – A PODIATRIST (or as they say here in Canada, a chiropodist). I got an-in person consultation when I was just 2 months pregnant with Arya.
We started chatting about slippers and she told me that there weren’t a lot of great options on the market for something very supportive, thoughtfully made, and also stylish. She recommended what I like to call “grandma slippers” to a lot of her clients. So her and I started meeting more frequently and she taught me about what materials are breathable, why a wider toe box is important, what an insole needs like a deep heel cup, arch support, etc., and why these things were great for stability, posture, lower back support and more.￼
In the span of 6 months I spoke to over 10 podiatrists and foot experts and learned quickly that there was a white space in the market for ergonomic, supportive, cozy yet stylish slippers. I also spoke to hundreds of people about the slippers they were wearing during the pandemic and learned what they loved and hated about their slippers. There was A LOT that they didn’t like.
Each day I got more and more excited about the fact that I could create a product that so many people wanted and needed. I became slipper obsessed. And now, I am working every day to produce and create slippers that I’m proud of, are excited to sell, actually helps people, and of course, make them feel chic.